One Minute Remaining: Getting Going
Every NHL coach will agree that getting a season off to a fast start will go a long way in determining success. Certainly there is no better example than the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, who set a league record last season by picking points in their first 24 contests with a 21-0-3 mark.
In 86 seasons, The Hawks have won 65 openers and have qualified for the playoffs 63 times. The 2012-2013 campaign began with the Hawks ruining the defending champion L.A. Kings' banner-raising party 5-2 and then opening at home by edging St. Louis 3-2. Back in 2009-2010, the Blackhawks' openers actually took place on neutral ice in Finland, with the Panthers taking Chicago's designated "home" game 4-3 in a shootout, while the "road" version saw the Hawks blank Florida 4-0.
The 1961 champions began the campaign at home with a 1-1 draw against the Red Wings before knocking them off in the road version 4-2. Back in 1937-38, there wasn't anyone who gave the American-laden Blackhawks much of a shot for the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup. Detroit had won two in a row to begin the campaign, and Toronto was the other preseason choice.
The Hawks were shut out by New York 3-0 in the season opener that year and barely made the playoffs with a losing record. Also, they wound up losing their last three games of the schedule. However, in the first two playoffs series, they managed to lose the openers in a best-of-three series against Montreal and New York. In the Final, they used a minor-league goalie in the opener against Toronto and eventually stunned the favored Maple Leafs three games to one.
Chicago's first Stanley Cup came in 1934 behind the goaltending of Charlie Gardiner. They opened the season with tie against New York at home. In the playoffs, they ousted both Montreal teams (the Canadiens and Maroons) in two-game series decided by total goals, before whipping Detroit 3-1 in a best-of-five series.
While starting strong is important, going into the playoffs with momentum is another key. The current champions, plus the 2010 and 1961 winners, lost their regular-season finale. Fortunately, team chemistry with terrific leadership put it all together for the playoffs. This certainly showed in the seven-game series comeback against Detroit and allowed the Blackhawks to prevail in six games against Boston!